There is currently no legal requirement in the UK to apply for registered IP rights when starting a business or launching new products and services. However, filing applications for some IP rights after you have sold or marketed your goods/services may weaken the strength of those rights or sometimes render them completely invalid.
Even if you do not wish to file applications for your own registered IP, it is advisable to investigate whether or not your business activities would conflict with existing IP rights of others. This investigation is typically aided by performing various different IP searches, commonly called ‘freedom to operate’ searches. Ideally, these searches should be performed before commencing your new commercial activities. The results of an IP search can never provide you with a 100% guarantee that there are no existing conflicting rights or that you will not have any future IP conflicts with a third party. However they will often highlight potential issues that may require attention before you commence trading. Such searches can also help make the process of applying for your own registered IP rights more efficient and cost-effective.
Dealing with some of these issues at a later stage may be more expensive and in some circumstances may have a negative impact on your business.